It was only a matter of time before Vera Wang created my perfect wedding dress. She is called June. She is everything I ever dreamed of owning. I want her. She looks perfect, I could wear her all day and I would adore her, love her. I imagine myself walking down the aisle and my guests gasping at her beauty. No one can tell me she is anything less than perfect. No one. The reality of course is that once I have bought this dress I will probably spend the whole day cursing its elegant Chantilly lace and eyelash flange skirt as I snag it on broken finger nails and tread on it with the Louboutin’s that are causing me to walk like I have rickets. I imagine my grimace as I drop a blob of whatever I am eating on it, forever to leave a mark of my clumsy dining habits. I know that by the end of the day the relief of taking the dress off will far out way the pleasure I got from wearing it and whats worse I also know that it will go into a wardrobe worn once and destined only for Ebay where it will fetch far less than I forked out for it in the first place. This is a dress that really I should just desire and admire but never buy. Because if I buy her then I know it will only end in disappointment and regret and THIS is how I feel about luxury car manufacturer, Aston Martin.
So when I was offered the Vantage S I wasn’t exactly filled to the brim with excitement. Arriving to pick it up I was, as with June, taken in by its beauty. Aston know how to design a car on the exterior. They are so pretty. The front grill, the shark like nose, those lights that look like they have been blown into place by the wind. The nose of the Vantage S is so low with a lip under the front bumper. Gorgeously low. Yes, the Vantage S is a very beautiful lady and as I was absorbed by all this and I wanted the car. I desired it and all I could see was its flawless elegance.
Its upon stepping inside the Aston that things change. I am a girl that LOVES Alcantara and the Vantage S is full of it. I surprised myself by admitting that the steering wheel is the most chic I have ever seen. Its perfect total lack of unnecessary frill suits me but this is as classy as the interior gets. The stitching on the upholstery is a miss mash. There is contrast stitching on the A pillar. This is probably the worst place to put any kind of stitching at all. Your eye focuses on it, no matter where you put the stitch it is going to look very wonky to either passenger or driver. I once had a pair of Manolo Blahniks with a stitch right across the toe. No matter how much I told myself the designer had thoughtfully placed this here I couldn’t help but look down and stare only at the ugly stitch. It haunted every step and this is what the interior of the Aston does. Each time I look over to the left I catch the stitch line and it reminds me of what the Aston lacks instead of reminding me of its exterior grace.
Nothing in the Vantage S, save the steering wheel, suggests any kind of real quality to me. Its all boshed together from other cars. The key was exactly the same as a Ford KA key, the Sat Nav straight out of a Volvo. Aston have addressed the Sat Nav and now Garmin provide the system in the latest Virage, a step in the right direction although this is a kind of oxymoron, if you are following a Garmin you are probably taking a step in the wrong direction. But whilst the Sat Nav isn’t perfect its a damn sight better than the Mercedes Sat Nav. The leather itself seems cheap. Step into a Porsche or a Ferrari and it reminds me of being in an expensive tack room. You can smell the leather quality. Whilst the Aston has that delicious new car smell there is no hint of quality from the materials. Where the mattness of the steering wheel had captured me the rest of the car has tacky high gloss black buttons and shiny chrome details. It just doesn’t work. Its as if the interior was designed by someone who has no clue or feel for quality. Its like a stunningly beautiful woman with a terrible personality, a Primark dress with the label cut out and a Gucci one sewn in.
This car was fitted with the Aston Martin Sport-shift gearbox. There are lots of these HiTech gearboxes, some of them are more successful than others. VW have the DSG which performs well in auto or on the paddle shift. Porsche PDK box is great in auto but the sequential is unnatural, leading you the wrong way when it comes to changes. I had been warned about the Sport-shift by friends at dealerships so wasn’t expecting much. My god it was sluggish on changes, clunky and a constant battle. There is no hill hold which became an issue. When you have a car like this it becomes an instant attraction and so needs to be easy to maneuver or you become a spectacle. I once bought 8 inch heels from TopShop and winced my way down oxford street. Inevitably I fell. As I was pulling myself up from this embarrassing heap on the floor I notice a girl in golden ballet pumps. Oh how envious I was of those pumps as I battled on. This is how the Aston leaves me feeling on every slight hill. I know the battle that awaits to get it to move forward with any grace will leave me wishing I had just bought a BMW M3
Something very positive about the Aston is its presence on the road. Other drivers love it. The Vantage S encourages friendly waves and invitations into gaps that I don’t even need. People adore the car and like the Vera Wang dress they all look at me as I negotiate roundabouts and traffic lights and admire me. They are captivated by the beauty of it. Why wouldn’t they be? They see that perfect exterior form. The beautiful sound. Of course what they don’t see is the whiplash I am trying to avoid as I battle my way through the sport shifts inability to perform a smooth gear change at low speeds. They mistake the grimace on my face for a smile as I desperately try to work out my ground clearance. You see the city loves this Aston Martin but the Aston does not love the city.
Fundamentally I am a girl and I worry about my nail polish, hair, lipstick and whether Johnny Depp is ready to start dating again and sometimes I forget that I can ACTUALLY drive and once I realised this fact behind the wheel of the Aston Martin I found it a different beast. I just had to get out of the city to discover it. The Vantage needs you to let its hair down. You have to get aggressive with it. She loves it. Open her up and use the paddle shift and this car will put a smile on your face. The gears snap and pop into place and suddenly, instead of avoiding gear changes I am hungry for them. Ok so I wouldn’t trade my flat six for this V8 but boy does it sound good and as I approach tunnels I find myself having to drop my window and a gear to hear it. You can’t fault the sound. Even if you know nothing about cars you know that the Aston sounds the business. I could drive all day on an autobahn like this. I suddenly see why the sport-shift is great and the dealers are right, this is NOT an automatic in any shape or form and it should only be treated as a manual. However as I pointed out earlier it SHOULD be able to perform better as an auto. Like the DSG or the PDK. If you are going to sell a car to the general public as a road car, which IS what the Vantage S is, then she needs to be as drivable at low speeds as she is at high. I guess thats where this car fails me a little. Its sandwiched between road car and track car. It does neither of those things brilliantly so what is its purpose? Top Gear called it hardcore luxury but for me its not quite either of those things.
I don’t know how I feel about the car, or the brand. I want to love Aston Martin, I want to get inside it and feel absolutely taken. In many ways this is exactly what is wrong with my job. Reality. The reality of cars that, like my dress, should remain a fantasy. Something to look at and adore. To admire from a far. Aston seem to hold on to the history yet they have let go of what once made them great. The quality of their product. The company has probably the BEST exterior designers in the world but these designers are being let down by technology and interiors that come across cheap and underdeveloped. I feel sad saying that but I stand by it. If you are going to spend over £100,000 for a car then you should be getting more quality, more functionality and more of a purpose. Until Aston step up the interior quality I just couldn’t recommend one of their cars for the money. Unless we are talking classic cars. The Aston DB5 is one of the chicest, beautifully crafted and perfect cars I have ever seen. In Astons glory days you could live with the car and be passionate about it. I couldn’t live with a modern Aston Martin and neither can many of my clients but when you sit in your office and see it on your driveway you can’t help but adore it. Like my Topshop shoes that I haven’t worn since Oxford Street or the Vera Wang dress that I will still probably buy. Aston Martin is about an image, a lifestyle. Its a car you buy for what it IS not what it DOES.